THE BUCS ARE IN THE SUPER BOWL!

It’s been a little more than 24 hours since the Buccaneers punched their ticket to Super Bowl LV.  I admit: it still doesn’t seem real yet.  It still hasn’t sunk in.

When Tom Brady came to Tampa during the offseason, we all knew this was the goal.  But much impact could a 43-year-old quarterback possibly have on a team that hadn’t even made the playoffs in 13 years?

Well, now we know.  An 11-5 record.  A wild card berth.  Three straight playoff wins on the road against three division champions, including the top-seeded Packers on Sunday.  And now, a Super Bowl on their home field against the defending champs, the Chiefs.

The NFC Championship game in Green Bay was, in many ways, a typical 2020 game for the Bucs.  They looked outstanding for 30 minutes, then hung on for dear life in the second half.  Heck, Brady threw three interceptions on three straight possessions.  But the Packers converted those miscued into just six points.  And who know what would’ve happened if Green Bay had not decided to kick a field goal with just over two minutes remaining, trailing by eight, with the ball inside the Bucs’ 10-yard line.

But none of that matters now.  Our Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be making just their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.  We all remember the last one; in 2002, they went to San Diego and blew out the Raiders.  Now, they face superstar Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City.

But we’ll dive more into the matchup later on.  For now, let’s just cherish the moment.  It is no longer a dream; the Bucs are in the Super Bowl.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Countdown to the NFC Championship Game

Here we stand, about 48 hours from the NFC Championship game between the Buccaneers and the Packers in Green Bay.  Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers.  Around 6:30 Sunday night, we should know whether the Bucs will be playing in Super Bowl XV, in their home stadium.

The Bucs got some good news and bad news on Friday.  First, the good news: nose tackle Vita Vea, who was thought to be out for the season, has been activated for the game.  This will give a big (literally) boost to Tampa Bay’s defense as they face a potent Green Bay offense.

On the downside, Antonio Brown has been ruled out.  Fortunately, the Bucs still have plenty of weapons in the passing game to make up for his absence.

This is only the fourth time ever that Tampa Bay has made it to the NFC title game.  The Bucs are 1-2 all time, with the last one being the victory over the Eagles in the 2002 season that sent the Buccaneers on their way to becoming Super Bowl champs.  They lost their other two appearances – in 1979 and 1999.

These two teams have only met one other time in the postseason.  In January 1998, the Bucs went to Lambeau Field and lost, 21-7, in the divisional round.

Never before has there been a ‘Battle of the Bays’ with so much at stake.  These two teams used play each other twice a year, back in the old NFC Central days.  I expect a terrific ballgame in Green Bay on Sunday.

ONE WIN FROM THE SUPER BOWL!

Bucs fans: our team is one win away from playing in the Super Bowl.  One more win.

The only thing standing in the way is a victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.  Of course, that means a trip to frigid Lambeau Field.  But it can be done.

On Sunday, the Bucs knocked off the Saints in the divisional round, 30-20.  This is the same New Orleans team that humiliated the Bucs on national TV in week 9.  But the same unit that got shredded in that game – the secondary – was the difference in Sunday’s victory.  Tampa Bay forced four turnovers, and the offense turned those miscues into 21 points.  The Buccaneers, on the other hand, played turnover-free football, and ran the ball effectively.  The offensive line also turned in another solid performance.

This will be Tom Brady’s 14th trip to a conference championship game, and his first in a pewter uniform.  This will be the Bucs’ fourth appearance in the NFC title game.  The last time was in January of 2003, when they shut down Veterans Stadium in Philly by beating the Eagles.  They would go on to beat the Raiders in the Super Bowl.

Never before has a “Battle of the Bays” meant so much.  Tampa Bay beat Green Bay handily during the regular season, but the Saints also did that to the Bucs.  Brady and a few others are used to playing in the cold, so I expect them to be ready.  Buckle up: this ride isn’t over just yet.

Photo courtesy: @jwhite_333 (Jordan Whitehead’s twitter)

Bucs Get Statement Win Over Packers

Whatever Tom Brady and Bruce Arians said to the team after that ugly loss in Chicago, wow, did it pay dividends.

On Sunday, the Bucs blew out the previously undefeated Packers at Ray-Jay, 38-10.  I’m trying to remember the last time Tampa Bay dominated a quality opponent like this.  It was a long, long time ago.

And the thing is, this one didn’t even start well.  Green Bay dominated the first quarter, taking a 10-0 lead.  But then Jamel Dean picked off Aaron Rodgers and returned it for a touchdown.  A few minutes later, another Rodgers INT, another Bucs’ touchdown.  The Bucs led 14-10, and that was only the beginning.  The Buccaneers scored 38 unanswered points.  This was blowout city.

Gronk caught his first touchdown in a Tampa Bay uniform.  The defense was incredible after Dean’s pick-six.  Ronald Jones had his third straight 100-yard rushing game.

But this may be the most impressive stat of them all: the Bucs had zero penalties in this game.  Zilch.  Nada.  Ndamukong Suh was flagged for a personal foul, but that was canceled out by an intentional grounding call on Rodgers.  How did they pull off such a clean game after what happened last Thursday at Soldier field?  I don’t know, but it was fun to watch.

The Bucs are now 4-2, and alone in first place in the NFC South as of this writing.  They’re off to Vegas next week, and so am I.  The Raiders won’t have any fans in their brand new stadium, but I’ll cheering for my Bucs someplace on the Strip.

Photo courtesy: USA Today

Overtime Letdown: Bucs Lose…Again

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

 

This time, the Buccaneers waited until overtime for the pain and agony to become official: a 26-20 loss to the Packers in Green Bay.  Let me count the ways:

 

Jameis Winston gift-wrapped a Green Bay touchdown when he fumbled the ball right into the arms of Dean Lowry, who took it to the house.  Winston almost cost the Bucs more points in the fourth quarter due to miscommunication on a snap in the red zone.  He’s lucky he recovered the fumble, and ended up throwing his second TD pass of the game to Cameron Brate, which put Tampa Bay in the lead with about six minutes to go.

 

That brings me to my next point: Mike Smith’s joke of a defense couldn’t hold on to that slender lead late in the fourth.  The Packers tied it with a field goal, then won it on the first possession of overtime.  And on that drive, did you happen to notice the shoddy tackling?  Someone remind me again why Smith is still on the staff.

 

Of course, after the Green Bay field goal made it 20-20 with about two minutes to go, Jameis and company got the ball back, with a chance to go down the field and win the game.  They didn’t even come close.

 

While the Buccaneers have solved their field goal kicking situation, they had a punt blocked that led to a Packers’ touchdown.  Another mistake that you cannot make in any game, much less this one.

 

And then there were all of the penalties, and all of the sacks – seven of them in all – that cost the Bucs big-time.  The pass protection was a mess, yet they managed to have a nice game on the ground courtesy of Peyton Barber.  Go figure.

 

Last year, the Bucs finished 9-7.  This loss means they will not match their win total of last year.  It’s just one more sign of what a disappointment this season has been.

 

Next week, they’ll host the Lions and Ray-Jay.  Buccaneer Bri will be making his annual trip down south for that one.  So be on the lookout for some photos, videos and hopefully other fun stuff next Monday.

 

Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

 

Another Tampa Bay Loss, Another Tampa Bay Rant

I’m getting sick and tired of writing about the same old problems with this team every time they lose. 

 

The offense can’t score early in the game.  The defense can’t stop anybody from scoring.  The play-calling leaves a lot to be desired.  And after this latest loss to Atlanta, the Bucs are now further cemented in the cellar of the NFC South at 4-7.

 

Let’s start with Mike Smith’s pathetic defense – you know, the one that allowed at least 30 points for the fifth time this season.  Look: Julio Jones is a great wide receiver – one of the best in the game.  But how do you let a guy like that torch you for over 250 yards?  You’d think it’d be worth double-covering him every now and then, even if it means man-to-man coverage on another receiver like Mohammed Sanu.  You have to make someone other than Jones beat you, and Smith didn’t give that scenario a chance to play out.

 

This defense also has to be the worst in the league at getting off the field on third down.  The Falcons were 11-of-14 on third down in this game.  That is insane.  And it’s been happening all year long.  And let me tell you: we’re not talking 3rd-and-short, either.  A lot of these conversions require double-digit yards, and the Bucs are letting their opponents convert with ease.  How many times to do you a see a Tampa Bay defender playing so soft, that all the receiver has to do is run about two yards to move the chains before the defender even lays a hand on him?

 

Forcing turnovers is still an issue, though they did get a big one in the fourth quarter that nearly led to the Buccaneers coming all the way back from 21 points down.

 

That leads me to my next point: Dirk Koetter’s play-calling.  After the turnover, the Bucs marched down the field and into the red zone.  With about seven minutes to go, Tampa Bay had 2nd and 2 from the 19.  Koetter called three straight pass plays – all of them incomplete.  This was their big chance to tie up a game they had no business even being in, and they couldn’t get two yards in three plays?  As for his decision to go for it on 4th down instead of kicking the field goal, I’m a bit torn.  If you kick the field goal (and yes, we have a guy that can kick now) then you’d be trailing by four, meaning you’d still need a touchdown to win the game, not to mention stopping the Falcons’ offense.  So I was actually okay with the decision to go for it, but I did not like the play-call at all.

 

Naturally, Atlanta got the ball back, marched right down the field and scored the you-knew-it-was coming insurance touchdown.

 

But that’s not the only questionable play-calling.  Tampa Bay has two really good tight ends on this team: Cameron Brate and rookie O.J. Howard.  Can someone explain to me why neither of them saw a pass thrown in his direction for the entire first half?

 

I really don’t see how Koetter and Smith still have jobs at the end of this lost season, especially Smith.  The defense was the biggest problem last year; they’ve done nothing to fix that.  On offense, they’ve got all of these weapons, yet they consistently struggle out of the gate.  I know Jameis Winston is injured, but it’s been this way even when he’s been in there.  That ultimately has to fall on the head coach.

 

OK – rant over.

 

Next week: the Battle of the Bays, at Lambeau Field.

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

More Anemic Offense By Bucs Against Packers

Just when you thought the Buccaneers’ offense couldn’t get any more unwatchable, consider what they did on Sunday against the Packers at Raymond James Stadium. Keep in mind; these stats are for the entire game:

 

*109 Total Yards

*6 first downs

*16 yards rushing

*Josh McCown was sacked seven times and threw an awful interception

*Five straight three-and-outs to start the game

 

I won’t bother going on any further with my rant. The 20-3 final score, and the stats mentioned above, pretty much say it all. There’s no point in repeating all of the same old mistakes Tampa Bay has been making all year.

And yet, McClown is presumably still the starting quarterback of this team for at least one more game. Why? Lovie Smith says so, that’s why.

One more week of this torture, Bucs fans!

Photo Courtesy: AP

 

Bucs Lose Again: I Need a New Dictionary

As a journalist, I’m supposed to come up with new and creative ways to state my opinion. After seeing the same old story from the Buccaneers on Sunday in Carolina, I’m open to new terminology.

Josh McCown is pathetic. All three of the Bucs turnovers can be traced directly to him: two lost fumbles and an interception. Sure, you can argue all you want about that phantom fumble that was revered on a challenge by Ron Rivera. But the bottom line is, this guy is dreadful when it comes to protecting the football. Then there’s the lack of a sense of urgency. Down by two scores late in the fourth quarter (before McCown found the end zone with his legs) he took forever getting his team organized at the line of scrimmage. Even Dave Moore, the Bucs’ radio commentator, was all over him for that. Would Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers ever play like that? No way.

And yet, Mike Glennon, who stood on the sidelines once again, wonders if he’ll ever take another snap for this team. I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue saying it: Glennon is not the answer at quarterback, but he’s sure looked a LOT better than the guy now known as “McClown.” Josh needs to be benched, but if Lovie Smith hasn’t done it by now, it’s probably not going to happen.

And the defense? They lost to backup QB Derek Anderson for the second time this season. They made him look like a star. He threw for 277 yards. The entire Bucs offense only had ten more than that. Carolina held the ball for over 37 minutes, as the defense could not get off the field. We saw this in the season opener, and we saw it again on Sunday. They did force a turnover down by the goal line, but there were other chances – especially in the fourth quarter – to get the ball back and they couldn’t capitalize. An interception of Anderson was wiped out by a roughing-the-passer penalty. Then there was Alterraun Verner’s inability to hang on to a sure pick.

Again, we’ve seen these problems all year long. Why should they change now? The Packers will be angry when they come to Ray-Jay next weekend, having lost to Buffalo. And in the season finale, the Saints may need that game to win the division that nobody seems to want.

But hey – the Bucs are still in the running for the No. 1 draft pick!

Photo Courtesy: AP

 

The Bucs’ 2014 Schedule

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The 2014 regular-season schedule was released Wednesday night. It’s time to start planning those road trips – especially for people like me who don’t live in Tampa.

Without further ado, here it is:

Sun 9/7              CAROLINA                  4:25pm
Sun 9/14            ST. LOUIS                    1:00pm
Thu 9/18            @ Atlanta                     8:25pm
Sun 9/28           @ Pittsburgh                1:00pm
Sun 10/05         @ New Orleans            1:00pm
Sun 10/12          BALTIMORE               1:00pm
Sun 10/19          BYE
Sun 10/26         MINNESOTA               1:00pm
Sun 11/2            @ Cleveland                  1:00pm
Sun 11/9            ATLANTA                      1:00pm
Sun 11/16          @ Washington              1:00pm
Sun 11/23          @ Chicago                     1:00pm
Sun 11/30          CINCINNATI               1:00pm
Sun 12/7            @ Detroit                      1:00pm
Sun 12/14          @ Carolina                    1:00pm
Sun 12/21          GREEN BAY                 1:00pm
Sun 12/28         NEW ORLEANS           1:00pm

There are a lot of mini-home stands and road trips: two games here, three games there, etc. Nov. 23 marks Lovie Smith’s return to Chicago. As we all know, what looks like an uneventful game late in the season right now, can end up being a big game (and vice versa.)

Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com